Trouble with Comics

Daily Breakdowns 068 - Wave Hello, Say Goodbye

First Wave #1 (of 6)
Writer - Brian Azzarello
Artist - Rags Morales

Publisher - DC Comics. $3.99 USD

I didn’t pay a lot of attention to news about DC doing some sort of new imprint, or at least establishing some new corner of the DCU, for the Spirit, Doc Savage and I presume other Golden Age pulp heroes they have rights to use. I saw Azzarello’s name and just didn’t think he was the right guy to do it. I’m not convinced I was wrong yet, but this first issue of a miniseries planned to (re)introduce these characters is more interesting and a bit less mannered than I would expect from Azzarello. He only gets into some of his Tourette’s here and there (“the one thing right about the wrong guys”), and mostly keeps things lively with a ton of characters and different milieux introduced. Despite the cover, no Batman yet, but I think there’s hints about maybe The Phantom (I’m not sure if he’s the guy who gets his eye punctured by a robot, but I’m guessing that’s a different character), a Russian bad guy, the cold, pragmatic Doc Savage, the newspaper columnist who rips Doc Savage, a cheerfully sleazy Commissioner Dolan (brought into more or less standard DCU house style aside from the trademark acromegalic chin), and the more action-oriented but still amusing Spirit, who seems to make a living beating up thugs, though it’s not clear how. And in case I didn’t mention it, an eye-puncturing jungle robot. It looks like, Lost-style, a misplaced or stolen dead father is going to bring two of our male leads together, Doc Savage and The Spirit.

Morales’ style is maybe a little pedestrian to try to sell new readers on these ancient characters, but it’s okay in an Epting/Guice/Perkins/everyone-has-the-same-cheekbones-way. Curiously, there’s not a single female character, apparently crowded out by our multiple male narrators, but you have to figure Ellen Dolan and a femme fatale or two will make the scene soon. Morales hasn’t provided the most dynamic fabric samples, but Azzarello is clearly working hard sewing this quilt together.

Girl Comics #1 (of 3)
Writers - Trina Robbins, G. Willow Wilson, Devin Grayson, Various
Artists - Colleen Coover, Tana Sekeda, Various
Publisher - Marvel Comics. $4.99 USD

This is ghastly, and I really wanted it to be good. The prime directive here was clearly “Women first, quality second.” Although this is a gynocentric anthology that breaks no actual laws, since Trina Robbins was duly included, Marvel should really be ashamed for putting out this slapdash assemblage of indifferent superhero shorts, a pointless Franklin & Val Richards children’s book mashup, and a cheesy She-Hulk pin-up. Aside from Robbins’ 1969-set Venus tale, which is at least mostly coherent and has cute art by Stephanie Buscema (the lineage alone is a nice touch), and a lovely if earnest intro piece by Colleen Coover, the unknowns are unknown because they’re not ready yet and the known, normally competent writers like Willow and Grayson phone it in with stories that may as well have been called, “Nightcrawler Stops Guy with Knife While German Chick Sings Bad Lyrics” and “Jean Grey Lies to Scott’s Face and Really Wants to Bang Logan.” The sad thing (well, one more sad thing) is that there are also two wonderful, heart-in-the-right-place tributes to Marvel mavens Flo Steinberg and Marie Severin that only emphasize how far most of the talents here have to go to match their work ethic. It will take me a while to forget the emaciated Punisher posing as “sadprincess” online in order to kill a guy.

—Christopher Allen